officeless entrepreneur

No Office, No Problem: 7 Tools for the Officeless Entrepreneur

By Princess Jones

Small business is all about the margins. Margins, or the differences between what it takes to run your business and what your business brings in, determine profitability. Depending on the needs of the business, many entrepreneurs keep overhead down by choosing to operate without a dedicated office.

Not having an office can mean more flexibility for your workday. An officeless entrepreneur works anywhere he or she can find an outlet and WiFi. But that’s just the bare minimum. For completely comfortable work, you’ll need a few more things.

1. Power Strip

Have you ever walked into a cafe expecting to work the day away only to find that the one and only outlet is taken? That’s happened to me more than once. Then one day I realized that having a power strip would be a big help. No more fighting over outlets and suddenly you’re everybody’s brand new best friend. Just make sure you’re not blocking any walkways or creating any space hazards.

2. Rewards Card

It’s basic etiquette to buy something if you’re going to set up in a coffee shop or cafe. I may not buy lunch every time I set foot in a Panera Bread cafe but I spend at least $2 to $5 on coffee and a snack each time I go. Those little things add up. One way I’ve found to minimize the cost is by signing up for a rewards card. Starbucks, Panera, and most chains have them. That way you get credit for each dollar you spend in the place for freebies and other stuff.

3. Library Card

If you do not have a library card, stop reading this and go get one. Libraries are community hubs that offer more than just books. Other services include classes, meeting rooms, and workspaces. If you’re currently an officeless entrepreneur, it’s also a great place to get low-cost printing, copying, and faxing services.

4. Headset

I never realized how valuable my headset was until I forgot it at home one day. I spent a couple of hours trying to work while a woman next to me spoke loudly into her cell phone about her finances, medical issues and sex life. Even if you’re working from the library, it can get noisy. A great headset not only delivers music to help you concentrate, it blocks out the noise around you. And the reason, I recommend headsets instead of earbuds is because I prefer the ones with a microphone attached. This way I can also have Skype and Google Hangouts conversations.

5. Personal WiFi

Not every place you choose to set up shop will have free WiFi. Even if it does, some places like Panera Bread limit your use during the lunch rush. So, it’s good to have an alternate source of WiFi in your pocket. For me, it’s my phone. I’ve used it to tether my laptop so I can work during Panera’s limited hours, on long car trips, and when the library signal is too sluggish. You might also consider buying a personal WiFi hotspot, like Karma, MiFi, or FreedomPop. Other alternatives are hotspots provided by your cable company or phone company throughout the city.

6. Cloud Storage

People with permanent offices have these things call file cabinets and shelves. Officeless entrepreneurs look funny carrying around a file cabinet on their back. So what do you do with all your files? You sign up for trustworthy cloud storage account so you can access your files whether you’re at home or in the middle of nowhere. There are plenty of choices: Dropbox, Zumodrive, Google Docs, RackSpace, Mozy, etc. Find one that fits your style and budget.

7. Sturdy Bag

And finally, you need something to carry this stuff in. After all, an officeless entrepreneur is all about being able to get up and go. Obviously choose something that fits your laptop comfortably but make sure there are lots of nooks and crannies for all your stuff. In my experience, it’s best to get a combination of form and fashion, but if you have to choose one over the other, it’s form all the way.

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Princess Jones
Princess Jones is the evil genius behind P.S. Jones Copy & Design, where she helps food and drink businesses speak the language of their audiences. For more talk about copywriting, design, and the tools to pull them off, follow her on Twitter @imprincessjones.

2 comments

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  1. Kevin

    Nice list, though most ear buds these days include mics as well. I tend to find over ear headphones more comfortable for extended wear.

    An officeless entrepreneur might also benefit from an eighth item, a solid VoIP provider that provides the presence of a dedicated enterprise PBX at a fraction of the cost from a cell phone.

    ** Full disclosure, I work for a VoIP provider but I think it’s a solid add to the list regardless.

  2. What up, Princess! =)

    As a freelance writer with wonky home wifi (at times), I’ve spent countless hours at my local Starbucks, Denny’s and McDonalds over the years, and I’ve found those reward cards — and now, smartphone apps — to be a great way to rack up some bonus points and discounts while at work.

    But I have one more tip to supplement that one…

    Sign up for something like Swagbucks to get a little more mileage out of those cafe work sessions. You can use your gift card to earn bonus points with the establishment, but you simultaneously earn Swagbucks or whatever on your purchase, which you can then redeem for gift cards to said establishment, and the process just feeds on itself while the bonuses stack up.

    You can also sign up for Bing rewards, use Bing as your search engine and earn points automatically without even trying. Then you can redeem those points for Starbucks gift cards (or whatever).

    And with the Starbucks cards, don’t forget to register them on Starbucks’ website. By doing so, you get free refills every time you use that gift card to make a purchase.

    Phew! Earning free coffee sounds like a lot of work haha. But it’s worth it!

    Chris Desatoff
    Cartoonist, Freelance writer
    ChrisDesatoff.com

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